“All people on earth will be blessed through you.” (Gen.13:3)

In Genesis 12, we see that God sets his heart on Abram. He chooses him and calls him, telling him that he has resolved to make him into a great nation. But Abram’s election is not only to be a blessing to Abram himself- but his election has a purpose- in fact his election is much bigger than him. Scripture tells us that the blessing on Abram was a blessing that would result in all of the people’s on earth, being blessed through him.”

Abram was childless and old. His wife was barren and God promised to bless him with a child. This in itself was an extraordinary promise. But it was just the beginning of what God had in mind for Abram. His election, and his being chosen would lead to the birth of a nation, ultimately it would lead to the birth of a king- the Messiah, King Jesus, whose life, saving death and resurrection would indeed be the basis of blessing for all nations. Surprisingly though, the implications of the election of Abram, although largely fulfilled in the coming of Christ- still play out for us here and now.

If we are in Christ, we too are blessed, chosen in order that we might be a blessing to the nations. This is mission, being chosen by God in order to be a blessing. We talked about something of the blessing we have received in Christ last week through Ephesians, but remember it all culminated in us being God’s workmanship called to do good works, put simply we are blessed to be a blessing.

Grace and peace from Marcus

“The Lord now chose seventy-two other disciples and sent them ahead in pairs to all the towns and places he planned to visit. Now go, and remember that I am sending you out as lambs among wolves.” (Luke 10:1, 3)

When Jesus sent out his 32 pairs of missionaries (and as he sends you) he indicated that ministry is hard and dangerous. From Luke 10:1-20, the mission field is where your labour force is weak (v.2) and your opponents are fierce (v. 3). Your short travel itinerary and amenities are far from ideal (v. 4) and your accommodation completely dependent of others (v. 7). Your message will often be rejected (v. 10) for your obedience will alienate you from the world (v. 11). The work of the kingdom is truly a labour of love.

However, we are free from the potentially overwhelming burden of success. The ‘Lord of the harvest’ is responsible for sending in labourers (v. 2) and the response to the Gospel (v. 16). Our rejection is his rejection and subject to his justice (vs. 13ff). We do not need to stay awake at night worrying about our success. Our charge is to remain faithful in prayer and intimacy with God. For under his authority (v. 17) we will return bursting with excitement and rejoicing over all that Jesus achieves through us (vs 17 & 20).

Sounds adventurous and dangerous, count me

Grace and peace from Marcus

Jesus went with them to the olive grove called Gethsemane, and he became anguished and distressed. He told them, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” He bowed with his face to the ground, praying, “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” A crowd of men armed with swords and clubs, grabbed Jesus and arrested him and all the disciples deserted him.

They went out to a place called Golgotha and nailed him to the cross. The people passing by shouted abuse, shaking their heads in mockery. At noon, darkness fell across the whole land until three o’clock. At about three o’clock, Jesus called out with a loud voice, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” Then Jesus shouted out again, and he released his spirit. The earth shook, rocks split apart, and tombs opened. The bodies of many godly men and women who had died were raised from the dead.

Early on Sunday morning, as the new day was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went out to visit the tomb. Suddenly there was a great earthquake! For an angel of the Lord came down from heaven, rolled aside the stone, and sat on it. His face shone like lightning, and his clothing was as white as snow. Then the angel spoke to the women. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead, just as he said would happen. Come, see where his body was lying. Go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead. They were very frightened but also they were filled with great joy. Matthew 27-28

Grace and peace from Marcus

“Death has been swallowed up in victory.”
“Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?”
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

1 Corinthians 15 has much to say about the resurrection. At the heart of it is the bodily resurrection of Christ himself. It is because of the fact that God raised Jesus to life- declaring him to be the Son of God with power, that believers also can have the hope that they are not simply destined to be worm food. Instead, they will be raised to life on the last day though faith in Christ Jesus.

Although of course, everyone dies- Paul says that this should not cause us to grieve without hope- in Christ there is great reason for hope. Paul captures that poetically here- death has been swallowed up in victory, it has been defeated, and it has lost its final sting. Were as sin ushered in death, Paul says that though Christ we can know what it is to conquer death and for that there is reason to give thanks.

What about here and now as we await our death? Paul seems to think that here and now is profoundly affected by our future hope. He seems to think that if there is no resurrection there is very little reason for anything much really in the here and now- but because there is hope, beyond the grave, Paul encourages us and says stand firm. Don’t let anything move you because you know that your labour in the Lord is not in vain.

Grace and peace from Marcus

Anything we look to more than we look to Christ for our sense of acceptability, joy, acceptance, hope and security is by definition our god- something we adore, serve and rely on with our whole life and heart.”- Tim Keller

We tend to think of Idols as giant statues that people (usually in far off lands) bow down in worship too. We can be self-righteous, and think to ourselves, how could anyone worship something made by human hands? But of course we, if we are honest must admit that our hearts are idol making factories. What does that mean? Well it means that idols are not just statues, but they can be those “good things,” that at moments in our lives become “ultimate things.” In general idols can be all sorts of good things-“family, work, romance, children, our religious zeal, our moralism, our reputation, our wealth, our gifts and abilities, they can be things we have, they can be things we must have, but they are generally good things that have become ultimate things. If we lose a good thing, it makes us sad. If we lose an idol, it devastates and ruins us. And the problem with anything but God being in the place of the god of our heart is that anything else will give way under the weight of worship and prove to be false. So how do we thwart the idolatrous tendencies of our heart? Well the answer is of course- God has done it, in and through the gospel. At the heart of every sin and idolatry is a failure to look to Jesus for our salvation, our justification, our righteousness and our redemption. Friends- Jesus is our hope, our future, our joy and strength- let us be a people, defined by our dependence on the Triune God of grace.

Grace and peace from Marcus